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Music to your ears

Kelly Richey Carry the Light / Walter Trout The Outsider

07/01/2008 - If you read this column regularly, you know that I usually try to highlight a couple of different albums that fall within the same genre of music. That's what I did this time, and as it turns out, I've got some good news and some bad news. Or maybe I should say, baaaaad news.

First the good news. Ohio bluesgal Kelly Richey has just released her latest album, and it's really good. It's not really a blues album, though. It's more of a blues-rock album. This is more good news, since most or all good rock music has a strong element of blues at its core. Kelly has this basic, fundamental understanding dialed in. She and her band have created a strong, Hendrix based rock album that sounds like it was recorded in the early seventies, which again, is a good thing. Kelly rocks with an authentic, very bluesy edge that is captivating and evocative.

While I completely appreciate what the Kelly Richey Band is doing on a purely musical level, I have a hard time with her lyrical stance. I mentioned that the album sounds dated which is great, but unfortunately, the lyrics are clogged with sappy, idealistic hippy cheese. They are very relevant for 1969, but not so much for now. Maybe Kelly is trying to save the world (and the whales) one smoking guitar riff at a time, but I don't really feel like I (or the whales, for that matter) really need saving. If she's got to get it all off her chest, I guess that's okay. I didn't need her to tell me that war is bad or that there are lots of hungry people in the world, though. That's okay, just keep rocking, Kelly.

If you decide to check this album out, you'll have to suffer through the first track, which is by far the weakest on the album. You're probably better off skipping right to track four. This one's called "Carry the Light," and in addition to being the title track, happens to be the point where the album really takes off. Kelly rocks like Jimi while informing us that music is magic and light. From here on the album becomes more believable and listenable, but ultimately, the best thing that can be said about it is that it's good. Not poor, not great, just good.

And then there's Walter Trout's latest, "The Outsider." It's not good, it's baaaaad. As in rockin'. As in killer. If you stick this one in your CD player, you'd better strap yourself in first, because you are going for a ride.

Walter Trout came up in the late sixties and early seventies, playing for artists like John Lee Hooker, Percy Mayfield, and Joe Tex. He did a stint with Canned Heat in the early eighties, then signed on with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and recorded (along with another stellar blues player, Coco Montoya) my all-time favorite blues album, "Chicago Line." Since then, Walter's been fronting his own band and tearing up venues all over the world with his shredding blues guitar licks and soulful vocals.

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That's how his latest, "The Outsider," starts out. Walter's guitar will remove your head from your shoulders if you're not careful. This album ought to have a warning label on it! The second track, is classic rock gold. It's called "The Next Big Thing," and takes a cynical shot at the music industry. It features a cool acoustic groove punctuated by a dirty solo that takes the song into epic territory. The following cut, "All My Life," is another acoustic number that really kind of dragged for me. But then the fourth song starts and the albums soars into the blues-rock stratosphere from there on, ending with a breathtaking, absolutely rocking blues jam. That last cut is called "The Outsider," and is worth the price of the disc on its own.

Lyrically, Walter takes the time to look back over his life, chronicling the joys and pain of living the rock and roll life. His introspective retrospect is interesting, and totally lends itself to the music. Awesome.

Now that I'm finished telling you about these two albums, I'm going to take a second to talk to you about a related subject. In the past five years, independently owned, "mom and pop" record stores have been going out of business at an alarming rate. In fact, I recently read that some 40% of them have called it quits in the last three years! I consider this to be tragic. In the wake of giant retailers and the rapidly growing trend of downloading digital music, indy record stores are paying a terrible price.

Here in Casper, you are privileged to have a fantastic independently owned record store. It's called Sonic Rainbow, and is located smack in the middle of Casper on the 100 block of Center Street. If you haven't ever stopped in, you're missing out. The people who work there are great, and will go to great lengths to help you find what you're looking for in the unlikely event that they don't already have it in stock. The music I review is provided by the good people down at Sonic Rainbow, and I'm grateful for it. Do your part to save a locally owned business, and pay them a visit down at Sonic. If you want, you can shop by phone, too. Tell 'em Tony sent you. Take care.

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